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In the mirror of sanity.

On the everlasting impact of Don Quixote

Despite the fact that more than 400 years have passed since the work was published, The history of the valorous and witty knight-errant Don-Quixote of the Mancha is still being edited and read. From many perspectives, it could be regarded as one of the most valuable intellectual treasures of humankind. In July 2016, when Barack Obama, president of the United States of America at that time, visited Spain, he was given an outstanding gift from the royal representatives: an English edition of Don Quixote, with a dedication which covered a quote from chapter fifty-eight of Volume II, in which the knight talks to his squire about freedom. The present offered to the American president is meant to reiterate the great topical interest of Cervantes' novel. Those who, in the 21st century, govern the future of the planet, keep finding an insatiable source of inspiration in Cervantes' masterpiece. And they are not the only ones: Quixote serves as a creative incentive and as a teacher for the common people, who are bound to the mundane, besides the intellectual pleasure. Don Quixote provides, above all, a life lesson, arousing in its reader, throughout historical times, an eternal and irrefutable wisdom.

The topical interest and the importance of Don Quixote are clear in the contemporary world. Many Spanish critics perpetually emphasize that the latter has been converted into a Spanish institution and a universal myth. Each period in the history of humanity found responses to its deepest enquiries in Don Quixote; the human beings of each era could see themselves in the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance. Throughout their history, in the most dramatic moments, the Spaniards felt the need to return to Don Quixote, so that the knight would endow them with the necessary bravery to find themselves.

There is a strong necessity for "men who are decided not to be satisfied with the reality," in order not to forget that "being a hero resides in being oneself" (Ortega y Gasset 1990: 227). These are the teachings of the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance. Don Quixote is given the august excellence of providing help for every being, inviting one to know oneself better and to explore the intrinsic yearnings and distress. It helps oneself deal with unachievable dreams and to accept one's unavoidable boundaries, as the greatest victory of man is to conquer. What Don Quixote emphasizes is the importance of value in order to face the ridicule and to defend one's dreams against whatever may come.

The uniqueness of Don Quixote in the literature of his time is also emphasized, especially its foundation as a consequence of Cervantes' worthy efforts: "Inventing the modern novel two centuries before it reached continuity and three hundred years before consolidating itself within such a revolutionary genre, far away from the context of classical poetics in which it emerges, undoubtedly represents the construction of a text long before its time." (Paz Gago 2006: 25)

The relationship between Don Quixote and Sancho

At first sight, between the two of them there is a traditional master-servant relationship, one which has not changed very much since the Middle Ages. The servant is meant to be submissive, while the master is entitled to mistreating and even hitting his servant.

In the twentieth chapter of Volume I, Don Quixote and Sancho hear strange noises. The knight regards this as a possibility of an adventure; he is thrilled at the thought of being able to fight whomever he may encounter, whereas the servant is skeptical. It is night time, and Sancho is considerably frightened to allow his master to venture further away from him; he outlines an ingenious strategy of detaining him: he ties the legs of Rocinante and reaches his purpose--that his master should await by his side for the dawn. The denouement of such a tensed waiting is increasingly ridiculous, considering that the noises come from a fulling mill. The discovery gives Sancho the possibility to mock his master, an endeavor which profoundly disgusts the latter, causing his violent attitude of reprehension towards the squire:

Don Quixote, then, seeing that Sancho was turning him into ridicule, was so mortified and vexed that he lifted up his pike and smote him two such blows that if, instead of catching them on his shoulders, he had caught them on his head there would have been no wages to pay, unless indeed to his heirs. (Cervantes 1885i: 324)

Don Quixote gives reassurance to Sancho of Amadis, Gandalin and other famous knights, whose squires have never said a word against and have treated their masters with respect. He asks him to stop talking so much. However, the most surprising fact is that Don Quixote asks Sancho for forgiveness:

[...] [O]verlook the past, for thou art shrewd enough to know that our first movements are not in our own control; and one thing for the future bear in mind, that thou curb and restrain thy loquacity in my company; for in all the books of chivalry that I have read, and they are innumerable, I never met with a squire who talked so much to his lord as thou dost to thine. (Cervantes 1885i: 326)

In the thirtieth chapter, when Dorotea feigns being a princess and seeks help from the knight in order to regain her lost kingdom, Don Quixote retorts that he will kill her enemy and reinstate her once again on her father's throne, but he will not marry her, as his heart belongs to Dulcinea. Sancho criticizes his master's attitude and he supports his marriage with Dorotea, as she is far more beautiful than Dulcinea. In fact, Sancho dreams of his master becoming a king, so that he may become a marquis. Don Quixote cannot bear Dulcinea's beauty to be doubted, and mercilessly hits his squire:

Don Quixote, when he heard such blasphemies uttered against his lady Dulcinea, could not endure it, and lifting his pike, without saying anything to Sancho or uttering a word, he gave him two such thwacks that he brought him to the ground; and it had not been that Dorothea cried out to him to spare him he would have no doubt taken his life on the spot. (Cervantes 1885ii: 101)

The excerpt mirrors the master-servant relationship of the era: the master has the right to abuse his servant, while the latter regards it as a normal and just behavior. Nonetheless, immediately afterwards, Don Quixote asks his squire once again to forgive him: "'Now I forgive thee,' said Don Quixote; 'and do thou forgive me the injury I have done thee; for our first impulses are not in our control.'" (Cervantes 1885ii: 102)

The knight consequently scolds his squire, using strong, demeaning words, as in the forty-sixth chapter of Volume I, when Sancho insults Dorotea, after having seen her kissing don Fernando:

Rascally clown, boorish, insolent, and ignorant, ill-spoke, foul-mouthed, impudent backbiter and slanderer! Hast thou dared to utter such words in my presence and in that of these illustrious ladies? Hast thou dared to harbor such gross and shameless thoughts in thy muddled imagination? Begone from my presence, thou born monster, storehouse of lies, hoard of untruths, garner of knaveries, inventor of scandals, publisher of absurdities, enemy of the respect due to royal personages! Begone, show thyself no more before me under pain of my wrath; [...]. (Cervantes 1885ii: 314)

Sancho presently starts regretting having become acquainted with the knight: "All this time Sancho stood on the hill watching the crazy feats his master was performing, and tearing his beard and cursing the hour and the occasion when fortune had made him acquainted with him." (Cervantes 1885i: 292-293)

However, the relationship between the two reaches deeper layers of complexity. Sancho is able to enjoy freedoms which would not be accessible to any average servant of the time. It is widely known that Sancho consistently attempts to correct his master, struggling to make him become reasonable. On various occasions, Sancho does not have anything to object against his master's attitude, as in the case with the adventure of the brays, when the knight abandons the squire in the middle of an angry mob, and Sancho is caned:

'By God,' said Sancho, 'your worship has relieved me of a great doubt, and cleared up the point for me in elegant style! Body o' me! is the cause of my soreness such a mysery that there's any need to tell me I am sore everywhere the staff hit me? If it was my ankles that pained me there might be something in going divining why they did, but it is not much to divine that I'm sore where they thrashed me. By my faith, master mine, the ills of others hang by a hair; every day I am discovering more and more how little I have to hope for from keeping company with your worship; for if this time you have allowed me to be drubbed, the next time, or a hundred times more, we'll have the blanketings of the other day over again, and all the other pranks which, if they have fallen on my shoulders now, will be thrown in my teeth by-and-by.' (Cervantes 1885iii: 312)

He also reproaches his unprivileged life: "I would do a great deal better (if I was not an ignorant brute that will never do any good all my life), I would do a great deal better, I say, to go home to my wife and children and support them and bring them up on what God may please to give me, instead of following your worship along roads that lead nowhere and paths that are none at all, with little to drink and less to eat" (Cervantes 1885iii: 312). The squire goes even further, and he dares to put a curse on the knight-errants:

And then when it comes to sleeping! Measure out seven feet on the earth, brother squire, and if that's not enough for you, take as many more, for you may have it all your own way and stretch yourself to your heart's content. Oh that I could see burnt and turned to ashes the first man that meddled with knight-erranty, or at any rate the first who chose to be squire to such fools as all the knights-errant of past times must have been! Of those of the present day I say nothing, as your worship is one of them, I respect them, and because I know your worship knows a point more than the devil in all you say and think. (Cervantes 1885iii: 312-313)

Don Quixote feels responsible for having abandoned Sancho amongst the angry villagers and allows him to utter such words. When Don Quixote wishes to whip Sancho, believing that in this way Dulcinea--who had been enchanted--will return to her senses, Sancho does not await to defend himself, attacking his master: "[...] [Don Quixote] strove and struggled to untie him. / Seeing this Sancho got up, and grappling with his master he gripped him with all his might in his arms, and giving him a trip with the heel stretched him on the ground on his back, and pressing his right knee on his chest held his hands in his own so that he could neither move nor breathe." (Cervantes 1885iv: 226) Don Quijote protests and calls him a traitor: "'How now, traitor!' exclaimed Don Quixote. 'Dost thou revolt against thy master and natural lord? Dost thou rise against him who gives thee his bread?'" (Cervantes 1885iv: 226) But Sancho will not be intimidated: "'I neither put down king, nor set up king,' said Sancho; 'I only stand up for myself who am my own lord; if your worship promises me to be quiet, and not to offer to whip me now, I'll let you go free and unhindered; if not--/ Traitor and Dona Sancha's foe, / Thou diest on the spot.'" (Cervantes 1885iv: 226)

Nonetheless, the relationship of the two is rather thwarted and it evolves throughout the novel, up to the point in which they become inseparable. From the very beginning, Sancho is saddened by Don Quixote's speech of his own death. In the twentieth chapter of Volume I, the knight and the squire flinch at the sound of the mills, and Don Quixote thinks that the current adventure will lead to his death, and therefore provides Sancho with the necessary instructions in case the premonition turns into reality:

[...] [A]nd so without any further delay he let Rocinante feel the spur, and once more taking leave of Sancho, he told him to wait for him there three days at most, as he had said before, and if he should not have returned by that time, he might feel sure it had been God's will that he should end his days in that perilous adventure. He again repeated the message and commission with which he was to go on his behalf to his lady Dulcinea, [...]. (Cervantes 1885i: 322)

Sancho, aware of his meaning, "began to weep afresh on again hearing the affecting words of his good master." (Cervantes 1885i: 322)

In the last pages of the novel, when they return to their village, Don Quixote and Sancho witness mundane happenings, that Don Quixote perceives as bad omens: two youngsters fight over the cage of a cricket and one tells the other "'thou shalt never see it again as long as thou livest'" (Cervantes 1885iv: 349), while a hare is being chased with greyhounds. Don Quixote thinks that every incident alludes to Dulcinea, interprets the occurrences and omens as related to his own past and truly believes that he will never see his damsel again. Under these circumstances, Sancho displays much finesse and seeks to bring solace to his master, he even spending some money of his own in order to achieve this purpose. He picks up the hare and gives it to the knight, telling him: "'Your worship's a strange man,' said Sancho; 'let's take it for granted that this hare is Dulcinea, and these greyhounds chasing it the malignant enchanters who turned her into a country wench; she flies, and I catch her and put her into your worship's hands, and you hold her in your arms and cherish her; what bad sign is that, or what ill omen is there to be found here?'" (Cervantes 1885iv: 350) He buys the cage and gives it to the knight, with the following words: "'There, senor! there are the omens broken and destroyed, and they have no more to do with our affairs, to my thinking, fool as I am, than with last year's clouds; [...].'" (Cervantes 1885iv: 350) Moreover, Sancho tenderly scolds his master, as if he were a boy, using statements which belong to the priest and to the knight himself: "'and if I remember rightly I have heard the curate of our village say that it does not become Christians or sensible people to give any heed to these silly things; and even you yourself said the same to me some time ago, telling me that all Christians who minded omens were fools; [...].'" (Cervantes 1885iv: 350) There is a strong emphasis on the mutual affection between the knight and the squire. Sancho reaches Don Quixote's house, lured by the news of his illness and starts weeping: "The bachelor went for the notary and returned shortly afterwards with him and with Sancho, who, having already learned from the bachelor the condition his master was in, and finding the housekeeper and niece weeping, began to blubber and shed tears." (Cervantes 1885iv: 359)

In turn, Don Quixote, on his deathbed, and while writing his will, appreciates his squire, feels sorry for having made him seem ridiculous and alluding to Sancho's wisdom, leaves him a certain amount of money:

Item, it is my will that, touching certain moneys in the hands of Sancho Panza (whom in my madness I made my squire), inasmuch as between him and me there have been certain accounts and debits and credits, no claim be made against him, nor any account demanded of him in respect of them; but that if anything remain over and above, after he has paid himself what I owe him, the balance, which will be but little, shall be his, [...] for the simplicity of his character and the fidelity of his conduct deserve it. (Cervantes 1885iv: 360)

Subsequently, Don Quixote, with great humbleness and tender honesty, asks Sancho for forgiveness: "'Forgive me, my friend, that I led thee to seem as mad as myself, making thee fall into the same error I myself fell into, that there were and still are knights-errant in the world.'" (Cervantes 1885iv: 360-361) Sancho cries helplessly, and utters these words, filled with everlasting and ancestral wisdom: "'Ah!' said Sancho weeping, 'don't die, master, but take my advice and live many years; for the foolishest thing a man can do in this life is to let himself die without rhyme or reason, without anybody killing him, or any hands but melancholy's making an end of him.'" (Cervantes 1885iv: 361) The squire encourages his master to keep on living, and to become a shepherd, as Don Quixote had imagined, being compelled to withdraw from the knight-errantness, after having been defeated: "Come, don't be lazy, but get up from your bed and let us take to the fields in shepherd's trim as we agreed. Perhaps behind some bush we shall find the lady Dulcinea disenchanted, as fine as fine can be." (Cervantes 1885iv: 361) He takes all the blame for the knight's defeat, only to persuade him and see him getting up from his bed:

If it be that you are dying of vexation at having been vanquished, lay the blame on me, and say you were overthrown because I had girthed Rocinante badly; besides you must have seen in your books of chivalry that it is a common thing for knights to upset one another, and for him who is conquered to-day to be conqueror to-morrow. (Cervantes 1885iv: 361)

Don Quixote. The everlasting madman

One morning in July, Don Quixote gets out of his house in search of adventure. At almost the same instant, he realizes that he is a knight without weapons, and that in this case "according to the law of chivalry he neither could nor ought to bear arms against any knight; and that even if he had been, still he ought, as a novice knight, to wear white armour, without a device upon the shield until by his prowess he had earned one." (Cervantes 1885i: 114-115) Don Quixote does not require much time to find a "droll way" (Cervantes 1885i: 124) to become a knight. This is how the most lavish adventure of mankind begins. Don Quixote does not hesitate, as the "wrongs he intended to right, grievances to redress, injustices to repair, abuses to remove, and duties to discharge" (Cervantes 1885i: 114) were all waiting for him.

With his mind fired up with noble chivalry ideals, Don Quixote wishes to become part of the order of the knight-errants, in order to "defend maidens, to protect widows, and to succour the orphans and the needy" (Cervantes 1885i: 208), and takes the decision to mimick his heroes. Therefore, he cleans very old weapons, reassembles them in an inappropriate way (by replacing the missing parts of a helmet with cardboards) and looks for his horse, which is very thin, but which surpasses "in his eyes the Bucephalus of Alexander or the Babieca of the Cid." (Cervantes 1885i: 110) Afterwards, he chooses the name Don Quixote de la Mancha for himself, following the model of Amadis de Gaula. The last detail does not infer any problems, either: despite the fact that there is no woman in his life, he remembers a close-by woman farmer, calls her Dulcinea del Toboso, and dedicates his thoughts and great deeds to her.

Don Quixote is a nobleman who has already turned fifty, and who leads a peaceful life in his little farm in a village of La Mancha, leading a common existence among others of his time. He "was of a hardy habit, spare, gaunt-featured, a very early riser and a great sportsman." (Cervantes 1885i: 105) His greatest passion is the reading of chivalry books, as he manages to sell "many an acre of tillageland to buy books of chivalry to read, and brought home as many of them as he could get." (Cervantes 1885i: 106) This pastime disturbs him and leads him into madness, as he considers everything he reads to be of utmost importance and seriousness: "His fancy grew full of what he used to read about in his books, enchantments, quarrels, battles, challenges, wounds, wooings, loves, agonies, and all sorts of impossible nonsense; and it so possessed his mind that the whole fabric of invention and fancy he read of was true, that to him no history in the world had more reality in it." (Cervantes 1885i: 107-108) The imaginary Don Quixote stands for the archetype of the generous being, willing to do the most horrific sacrifices for his fellow men.

In the dukes' castle, having to face the church, Don Quixote states, from all his principles of life, the one he has ardently chosen: "Knight I am, and knight I will die, if such be the pleasure of the Most High. Some take the broad road of overweening ambition; others that of mean and servile flattery; others that of deceitful hypocrisy, and some that of true religion; but I, led by my star, follow the narrow path of knighterrantry, and in pursuit of that calling I despise wealth, but not honour." (Cervantes 1885iii: 347) Furthermore, he proudly explains what his noble function requires: "I have redressed injuries, righted wrongs, punished insolences, vanquished giants, and crushed monsters; I am in love, for no other reason than that it is incumbent on knights-errant to be so; but though I am, I am no carnal-minded lover, but one of the chaste, platonic sort. My intentions are always directed to worthy ends, to do good to all and evil to none; [...]." (Cervantes 1885iii: 347)

When Sancho talks to the squire from the Knight of the Forest, he portrays his master in the following manner, highlighting his limitless generosity and his ingenuity:

'I mean he has nothing of the rogue in him; on the contrary, he has the soul of a pitcher; he has no thought of doing harm to anyone, only good to all, nor has he any malice whatever in him; a child might persuade him that it is night at noonday; and for this simplicity I love him as the core of my heart, and I can't bring myself to leave him, let him do ever such foolish things.' (Cervantes 1885iii: 135-136)

Don Quijote dreams of returning to his adventures because he aims to become courageous; what matters to him most is his fame. Don Quixote is solely concerned with his fame, as at the beginning of Volume II, the knight wishes to know what the others think of him:

'[T]ell me, Sancho my friend, what do they say about me in the village here? What do the common people think of me? What do the hidalgos? What do the caballeros? What do they say of my valour; of my achievements; of my courtesy? How do they treat the task I have undertaken in reviving and restoring to the world the now forgotten order of chivalry? In short, Sancho, I would have thee tell me all that has come to thine ears on this subject; and thou art to tell me, without adding anything to the good or taking away anything from the bad; for it is the duty of loyal vassals to tell the truth to their lords just as it is and in its proper shape, not allowing flattery to add to it or any idle deference to lessen it. And I would have thee know, Sancho, that if the naked truth, undisguised by flattery, came to the ears of princes, times would be different, and other ages would be reckoned iron ages more than ours, which I hold to be the golden of these latter days. Profit by this advice, Sancho, and report to me clearly and faithfully the truth of what thou knowest touching what I have demanded of thee.' (Cervantes 1885iii: 28-29)

Don Quixote is convinced of taking over a distinguished accomplishment, and does not hesitate to compare himself with his heroes:

[...] I by Heaven's will have been born in this our iron age to revive revive in it the age of gold, or the golden as it is called; I am he for whom perils, mighty achievements, and valiant deeds are reserved; I am, I say again, he who is to revive the Knights of the Round Table, the Twelve of France and the Nine Worthies; and he who is to consign to oblivion the Platirs, the Tablantes, the Olivantes and Tirantes, the Phoebuses and Belianises, with the whole herd of famous knights-errant of days gone by, performing in these in which I live such exploits, marvels, and feats of arms as shall obscure their brightest deeds. (Cervantes 1885i: 311)

Don Quixote is capable of giving quite sensible speeches, filled with quotes or literary allusions. That is why Basilio and Quiteria, after their wedding, invited Don Quixote to spend some days in their house, "rating him as a Cid in arms, and a Cicero in eloquence." (Cervantes 1885iii: 236)

Undoubtedly, what is mostly emphasized from Don Quixote's personality is his idealism, his capacity of transgressing reality, molding it around his dreams, which the critics have called "misleading of the eyes." Don Quixote trumpets any surrounding element of the mundane to a higher state, metamorphosing it into an ideal. This is obvious throughout the novel, but it is prevailing in some of his adventures.

In the twenty-first chapter of Volume I, it starts raining, a meteorological phenomenon which provides Don Quixote with the opportunity of believing that he had mananged to acquire Mambrino's helmet. On the road, the master and the squire run into a barber, who is wearing a shaving basin on his head, typical for his profession, wishing to protect his hat from the rain. Don Quixote is convinced that he had encountered an illustrious knight, who is wearing Mambrino's helmet and does not hesitate to violently attack the barber and take his shaving basin, while screaming: "'Defend thyself, miserable being, or yield me of thine own accord that which is so reasonably my due.'" (Cervantes 1885i: 331) As usual, Sancho's energetic protests and warnings are futile.

All the defenders of Charles the Great were looking for Mambrino's helmet, as it was golden and protected his possessor; that is why many wanted to have it. The famous helmet appears in Orlando furious, by Ariosto, and Cervantes had already mentioned the episode, attributing the victory and the possession of the helmet to another knight, a detail which has already been signaled by the critics. In this way, to Don Quixote, a humble household item becomes the helmet of the French and Italian chivalry poems, and, thanks to Don Quixote's imagination, brass becomes gold. Sancho is having a good time, and notices that the head of the first owner of the helmet must have been huge, and yet nothing could discourage Don Quixote, who, as usual, has got an explanation for everything:

'[T]hat this wonderful piece of this enchanted helmet must by some strange accident have come into the hands of some one who was unable to recognise or realise its value, and who, not knowing what he did, and seeing it to be of the purest gold, must have melted down one half for the sake of what it might be worth, and of the other made this which is like a barber's basin as thou sayest; but be it as it may, to me who recognise it, its transformation makes no difference, for I will set it to rights at the first village where there is a blacksmith, and in such style that that helmet the god of smithies forged for the god of battles shall not surpass it or even come up to it; and in the meantime I will wear it as well as I can, for something is better than nothing; all the more as it will be quite enough to protect me from any chance blow of a stone.' (Cervantes 1885i: 332-333)

Don Quixote and Sancho continue on their way "guided by Rocinante's will, which carried along with it that of his master" (Cervantes 1885i: 335-336), after the adventure with Mambrino's helmet, and "Don Quixote raised his eyes and saw coming along the road he was following some dozen men on foot strung together by the neck, like beads, on a great iron chain, and all with manacles on their hands." (Cervantes 1885i: 346) The two walkers notice that the men in chains are being watched: "With them there came also two men on horseback and two on foot; those on horseback with wheel-lock muskets, those on foot with javelins and swords." They are delinquents, sentenced to the galleys, and Sancho explains to Don Quixote: "'That is a chain of galley slaves, on the way to the galleys by force of the king's orders.'" (Cervantes 1885i: 346) The knight regarded it as his duty "'to put down force and to succour and help the wretched.'" (Cervantes 1885i: 347) Among them, there is Gines de Pasamonte, a famous wrongdoer, who is being carefully transported, in chains and with thousands of precautions. Don Quixote asks for each of his misdemeanors, and, as he failed to understand the hilarious jargon of the delinquents, concludes to have in front of him merely victims of justice:

'From all you have told me, dear brethren, I make out clearly that though they have punished you for your faults, the punishments you are about to endure do not give you much pleasure, and that you go to them very much against the grain and against your will, and that perhaps this one's want of courage under torture, that one's want of money, the other's want of advocacy, and lastly the perverted judgment of the judge may have been the cause of your ruin and of your failure to obtain the justice you had on your side. All which presents itself now to my mind, urging, persuading, and even compelling me to demonstrate in your case the purpose for which Heaven sent me into the world and caused me to make profession of the order of chivalry to which I belong, and the vow I took therein to give aid to those in need and under the oppression of the strong. [...].' (Cervantes 1885i: 355-356)

Don Quixote manages to free the prisoners, which did not require a tremendous effort from him, as he considers that it is more than enough to take hold of one of the guards, while the enchained individuals break free and come to help him.

Nonetheless, the clearest example belongs to Dulcinea, the wonderful love Don Quixote pictured, the lady that exists only in his delirium. He is perfectly aware of the fact that there could be no knight without a lady:

'I say it is impossible that there could be a knight-errant without a lady, because to such it is as natural and proper to be in love as to the heavens to have stars: most certainly no history has been seen in which there is to be found a knight-errant without an amour, and for the simple reason that without one he would be held no legitimate knight but a bastard, and one who had gained entrance into the stronghold of the said knighthood, not by the door, but over the wall like a thief and a robber.' (Cervantes 1885i: 229)

And he comprehends that he should have a lady in order to become an authentic knight-errant. Cervantes narrates the scene as follows:

There was, so the story goes, in a village near his own a very good-looking farm-girl with whom he had been at one time in love, though, so far as is known, she never knew it nor gave a thought to the matter. Her name was Aldonza Lorenzo, and upon her he thought fit to confer the title of Lady of his Thoughts; and after some search for a name which should not be out of harmony with her own, and should suggest and indicate that of a princess and great lady, he decided upon calling her Dulcinea del Toboso--she being of El Toboso--a name, to his mind, musical, uncommon, and significant, like all those he had already bestowed upon himself and the things belonging to him. (Cervantes 1885i: 112)

The hero always introduces himself in the following manner: "[...] I am called Don Quixote of La Mancha, knight-errant and adventurer, and captive to the peerless and beautiful lady Dulcinea del Toboso." (Cervantes 1885i: 184) He decides to mimick Amadis, tears his apparel and does numerous abnormal deeds, showing his suffering caused by Dulcinea's absence.

He describes his lady accordingly, and no one could ever doubt Dulcinea's beauty or virtue without being presently attacked by Don Quixote, under the vigor of his noble madness.

'I cannot say positively whether my sweet enemy is pleased or not that the world should know I serve her; I can only say in answer to what has been so courteously asked of me, that her name is Dulcinea, her country El Toboso, a village of La Mancha, her rank must be at least that of a princess, since she is my queen and lady, and her beauty superhuman, since all the impossible and fanciful attributes of beauty which the poets apply to their ladies are verified in her; for her hairs are gold, her forehead Elysian fields, her eyebrows rainbows, her eyes suns, her cheeks roses, her lips coral, her teeth pearls, her neck alabaster, her bosom marble, her hands ivory, her fairness snow, and what modesty conceals from sight such, I think and imagine, as rational reflection can only extol, not compare.' (Cervantes 1885i: 230)

Even so, when he decides to write her a letter, as he runs out of paper, he writes it in Cardenio's booklet, asking Sancho to copy it as soon as possible, and explains to him that there seems to be no problem with the signature:

'And it will be no great matter if it is in some other person's hand, for as well as I recollect Dulcinea can neither read nor write, nor in the whole course of her life has she seen handwriting or letter of mine, for my love and hers have been always platonic, not going beyond a modest look, and even that so seldom that I can safely swear I have not seen her four times in all these twelve years I have been loving her more than the light of these eyes that the earth will one day devour; and perhaps even of those four times she has not once perceived that I was looking at her: such is the retirement and seclusion in which her father Lorenzo Corchuelo and her mother Aldonza Nogales have brought her up.' (Cervantes 1885ii: 16)

In this way, Sancho discovers Dulcinea's identity, realizes that he is acquainted to her, and provides the knight with valuable pieces of information about her:

'[...] [S]he can fling a crowbar as well as the lustiest lad in all the town. Giver of all good! but she is a brave lass, and a right and stout one, and fit to be helpmate to any knight-errant that is or is to be, who may make her his lady: the whoreson wench, what pith she has and what a voice! I can tell you one day she posted herself on the top of the belfry of the village to call some labourers of theirs that were in a ploughed field of her father's, and though they were better than half a league off they heard her as well as if they were at the foot of the tower; and the best of her is that she is not a bit prudish, [...].' (Cervantes 1885ii: 17)

Undoubtedly, Dulcinea is an untainted woman farmer and Don Quixote transforms her into a princess. What is more, the knight always proclaims his faithfulness to Dulcinea and his incapacity to love another woman. In the dukes' castle, the servant Altisidora pretends to be in love with Don Quixote so as to mock him, and one night she declares her love for him, singing below the knight's window. Again and again, Don Quixote reiterates his loyalty towards Dulcinea, claiming her to be the only woman he could ever love:

'O that I should be such an unlucky knight that no damsel can set eyes on me but falls in love with me! O that the peerless Dulcinea should be so unfortunate that they cannot let her enjoy my incomparable constancy in peace! What would ye with her, ye queens? Why do ye persecute her, ye empresses? Why ye pursue her, ye virgins of from fourteen to fifteen? Leave the unhappy being to triumph, rejoice and glory in the lot love has been pleased to bestow upon her in surrendering my heart and yielding up my soul to her. Ye love-smitten host, know that to Dulcinea only I am dough and sugar-paste, flint to all others; for her I am honey, for you aloes. For me Dulcinea alone is beautiful, wise, virtuous, graceful, and highbred, and all others are ill-favoured, foolish, light, and low-born. Nature sent me into the world to be hers and no other's; Altisidora may weep or sing, the lady for whose sake they belaboured me in the castle of the enchanted Moor may give way to despair, but I must be Dulcinea's, boiled or roast, pure, courteous, and chaste, in spite of all the magic-working powers on earth.' (Cervantes 1885iv: 59-60)

The attitude is maintained until the end of Volume II, when, one morning, Don Quixote is walking on the beach, and suddenly an armed knight appears and challenges him:

'Illustrious knight, and never sufficiently extolled Don Quixote of La Mancha, I am the Knight of the White Moon, whose unheard-of achievements will perhaps have recalled him to thy memory. I come to do battle with thee and prove the might of thy arm, to the end that I make thee acknowledge and confess that my lady, let her be who she may, is incomparably fairer than thy Dulcinea del Toboso. If thou dost acknowledge this fairly and openly, thou shalt escape death and save me the trouble of inflicting it upon thee; [...].' (Cervantes 1885iv: 278-279)

Extremely courteous, Don Quixote accuses him of lying and accepts the duel. They fight and Don Quixote, together with Rocinante, end up on the ground. Don Quixote regards himself as defeated, but he fails to accept that there may be a more beautiful woman than Dulcinea--he would rather die: "Don Quixote, bruised and stupefied, without raising his visor said in a weak feeble voice as if he were speaking out of a tomb, 'Dulcinea del Toboso is the fairest woman in the world, and I the most unfortunate knight on earth; it is not fitting that this truth should suffer by my feebleness; [...].'" (Cervantes 1885iv: 281-282) He would rather die for his feigned princess.

Accordingly, don Antonio Moreno is right, in the sixty-fourth chapter of Volume II, when he follows the Knight of the White Moon, which has just defeated don Quixote, and the first confesses his true identity--Sanson Carrasco, the bachelor, and he only claims to require Don Quixote to return to his village, in order to recover his sanity. Don Antonio regrets the subsequent recovery of Don Quixote, which will make all humanity suffer, as he had understood that Don Quixote's madness is merely a valuable acknowledgement, bequeathed by Cervantes to mankind.

Acknowledgment The text was translated by Ms Irina Simanschi, MA.


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Lavinia Similaru, PhD; Associate Professor of Spanish Literature, University of Craiova, Faculty of Letters, Department of Modern Languages, Craiova, Romania;
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Author:Similaru, Lavinia
Publication:Romanian Journal of Artistic Creativity
Article Type:Critical essay
Date:Mar 22, 2017
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